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Published on November 21st, 2009 | by Rachel Shulman


Holiday Binge Might Alter Gut Microbes

Overeating on holidays like Thanksgiving is more than acceptable in our culture – it’s expected.

Why not binge on mashed potatoes, gravy, and pecan pie?  Thanksgiving only comes once a year, after all.  Sure, you might gain a few pounds over the holiday season, but you have until New Year’s to worry about those.

New research suggests that the holiday binge might have a less visible effect than the extra weight around your midsection.  Switching from a healthy diet to one high in fat and sugar – even for just a day – might allow obesity-linked microbes to dominate the communities of microorganisms found in your gut.

The study used mice with transplanted human intestinal microbes to investigate how switching from a low fat, plant-based diet to a Western diet influences the community of gut microbes responsible for metabolism and weight gain.  Researchers were surprised by how quickly microbial communities in the gut responded to exposure to a high fat, high sugar diet.

A better understanding of the types of microbes that flourish under certain diets might help scientists develop probiotics that aid in the digestion of foods.

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(Image courtesy of Sifu Renka at flickr under a Creative Commons license)

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About the Author

I'm an ecologist turned journalist turned farmer-in-training. I'm currently working on an organic farm and creamery in Illinois. Follow me on twitter (, friend me on Facebook (!/profile.php?id=3105709), or follow me on StumbleUpon (

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